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The Car Restoration Paradox

Updated on September 18, 2009

 After considerable time and expense, you, the car restorer of your favorite classic, has finally reached the end of your goal: a near or fully restored car.

Most guys that restore their favorite classic car (mine is the Corvair) do it for one of several reasons but at some point in time all of the "restoring" you intend to do is done. The car either ends up usually looking like a show car, where everything is perfect and stock original just like back in the day they were made, OR, it is a "daily driver", which translates into a car that may or not be stock and true to the original but is mechanically sound and reliable. It is not a show car in many ways, it has some dings or small dents, maybe the paint is not as glossy as a new one, minor stuff, but overall the car is in decent condition.

Now comes the paradox.

The whole point of restoring for many is to bring back to life some poor neglected classic car. It is a rebirth. A time machine whenever you drive it. People look. Maybe you originally thought of making $$$ off the restoration or you just wanted to keep busy during unemployment or retirement. Once the car is restored, many drive it everyday to work, a sort of testament to their ability to bring back to life a car, others, park it in an protected area and seldom drive it in fear of its own rarity and obtaining parts should it break down. Perhaps thousands were spent and now it sits. Of course, driving it daily long distances maybe fun but you are asking for problems sooner or later, sooner or later it will falter, then you will have to find the part again. The more you drive your restored car, the more likely something will go wrong. But, not driving it on a regular basis is just as bad for the engine. Parking it for months before driving it is silly. Even driving it once a month is silly. Engines were made to be driven and if yours is in good shape, driving a few times a week even for 5-10 miles will keep the engine primed and lubricated.

The worse thing for any engine is to sit and not be started. After time, the lubrication left over from the last drive is gone, dried up. Critical parts become stiff and corroded. Gas in the tank becomes foul, which in turn, clog the fuel lines and carburetors. Brake fluid becomes contaminated.

The car engine is like the human body: it needs exercise to stay in shape on a regular basis and a few times a week is all that is required. Restoring a car and parking it and driving it once a month or less is self defeating. Restored cars are worth more money when they run fine. 

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